Selfless Walters makes midfield sacrifice

·2-min read

Fremantle coach Justin Longmuir has revealed Michael Walters turned down the chance to return to his favoured midfield role this year in order to lead the club's young forward line.

Walters' finest season came in 2019 when he earned All-Australian honours for starring in a hybrid midfield/forward role that yielded him 40 goals and an average of 21.8 possessions.

His form plummeted significantly in 2020 and 2021 after being stationed more permanently up forward, with Walters' frustrations in the role bubbling over at times.

A return to the midfield was an option for Walters this year, but he instead buckled down in attack to help the club's fledgling forward line, which includes smalls like Michael Frederick, Sam Switkowski and Lachie Schultz.

Walters showcased his value with 3.3 in last week's 13-point elimination final win over the Western Bulldogs and he looms as a key figure in Saturday night's semi-final against Collingwood at the MCG.

"I actually went to him across the pre-season and said maybe there's an opportunity on the wing and we can spend a bit of time in the midfield," Longmuir said.

"And he said, 'No, I just want to embrace this forward role. You've given it to me and I want to make sure I bring my leadership to the forward role and I want to make sure I embrace it'.

"The way he's embraced the defensive side of the game, his leadership and his contest has set him up to impact on the scoreboard.

"He's been one of our better forwards across the year. He's done a great job."

Walters, who has booted 23 goals this season, has built a reputation for being a September specialist.

In his 12 finals games, Walters has booted three goals in seven of them.

Longmuir isn't surprised by Walters' finals heroics.

"He embraces the moment and that doesn't allow him to get overawed," Longmuir said.

"But he also trains at a standard that is finals standard. He puts himself under pressure at training, he trains at an intensity that holds him in really good stead in those big moments."